10 August: when Arsenal returned Community Shield tickets for lack of interest

10 August 2003

By Tony Attwood

So maybe the fans knew the game wasn’t going to be up to much. Maybe they didn’t have much faith that the season could be anything special.  Or maybe they were just waiting for something special in the league.

Lehmann in goal made his first competitive start for Arsenal: the media were not impressed.  Silvestre scored for Manchester United but Henry equalised for Arsenal from a free-kick. Jeffers was sent off in the second half and Man United won the game 4–3 on penalties.

The game of course concluded the pre-season which had begun with a defeat to Peterborough, a goalless draw with Barnet and a 2-2 draw with SC Ritzing.

Arsenal did manage to win against Austria Wien, Besitkas, and St Albans City pre-season, but never by more than two goals, but then drew with Celtic.  So another draw and a penalty defeat was pretty much what was expected for the rest of pre-season.

The Shield game was overshadowed by the scandal of the FA being found guilty by the Charity Commission of misusing the funds taken allegedly for donation to charities, and of not keeping proper records of which charities had benefited from the game in the past. Their response was simply to change the name to the Community Shield.

Predictions in the media for the season ahead were that Arsenal could make the top four but nothing more than that.  After three games the Times reported that Arsenal fans were saying that this was the worst Arsenal team they had ever seen.

Arsenal did win their first four league games but lost two and drew one of their first three Champions League games.   Any talk of going unbeaten through the league season would have been met with hollow laughter.

Indeed Alex Ferguson was still saying it was impossible in April.

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